We talk about budgeting and saving money quite a bit at the Savvy Student Blog, as well as through our Money Smart Seawolves workshops. And if you pull up just about any article on how to ‘save money in college’ they always talk about food. It’s a big expense after all, and one that is necessary. Most articles will prompt you to get a meal plan because it can save you cash. You’ll pay for that meal plan when you pay back your student loans but that’s a topic for an entirely different post.
So, you know you have to budget your money in order to save and pay your bills. You’ve heard it a million times. Now answer me this, have you ever thought about budgeting your meal plan points? BINGO! It’s not something people necessarily think about budgeting but it’s something that is vital to ensuring you have enough to cover you for an entire semester. You don’t want to be eating off of your friends plate during finals week.
Here at Stony Brook, we have 4 levels of meal plans.
- BRONZE- This nets you 1,325 dining points with an average of 10 meals/week. You can expect to have approximately $8.28 per meal and approximately $82.81 per week.
- SILVER- Here you’ll get 1,443 dining points with an average of 11 meals/week. This has you spending approximately $8.20 per meal and $90.19 per week.
- GOLD- This plan gives you 1,678 dining points with an average of 13 meals/week. Here you will spend approximately $8.07 per meal and $104.88 per week.
- PLATINUM- The Rolls Royce of meal plans gives you 2,266 dining points with an average of 18 meals/week. The cost per meal works out to around $7.87 and about $141.63 a week.
So you can see that the higher the plan you have, the less you have to spend per meal but the more meals you have per week. The dining locations offer meal combo prices and other specials to try to help keep the cost for your meal below or at the average cost. These usually include something like 2 pieces of pizza and a soda for $6. If you keep your meals under the ‘per meal’ average price then you’ll definitely have enough money to last you the entire semester.
The dining services site does has a ‘Stay on Budget Spending Chart’ that you can download which shows you how much of a balance you should have left each week. Your balance is printed out on every receipt but you’ll have to ask the cashiers to give it to you. What they really need is to have a chart that lets you balance it yourself but you can use a simple Excel sheet or the easy pen and paper method.
Let’s say you have the Bronze plan which gives you 10 meals a week. You know there are 7 days in a week, right? I can see the math coming together in your head. That’s right. On this lovely plan, you can eat 1.4 times a day. 1.4! That’s not even two meals a day. It’s a meal and a snack. Hungry yet?
First, look at your options. Do you need the breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, french toast, coffee, yogurt and orange juice? Unless you’re training for The Hunger Games, probably not. This morning I snagged an omelet with two toppings (tomato and peppers, if you must know) for $4. It was a decent size and pretty filling. Boomtown. One meal down and I totally would have enough money for another actual meal today, at that same price.
The daytime is pretty busy and you may not always have time for lunch. I rarely do. On Mondays, spend $11.85 at the deli in the Union and get a pound of deli meat. Pick up a loaf of bread over the weekend at Target for around $2 (cash money for this, I know it hurts) and you’ll have lunch for the WHOLE WEEK. That $11.85 you spend at the deli works out to around $1.60 a day and like I said, it gives you lunch for the whole week. Slap a sandwich together before heading out for the afternoon and you’ll have a quick snack to keep you filled up.
With the $4 breakfast and the $1.60 sandwich, you’ve only spent $5.60 today. You are allotted $8.28. You still have $2.68 for dinner. You can get a small soup for $2.35. You could get ramen for only $0.62 and mix in some tuna, if you desire, for $1.95. You could get Easy Mac for $1.99. Unfortunately, the healthiest options are not the cheapest so you’re sacrificing one for another on the Bronze plan. But, with a bit of planning you could eat three meals in a day instead of the measly recommendation of 1.4. And do NOT forget all of the FREE FOOD available on campus. Keep an eye out on your emails for events with free food. Join every club imaginable and take advantage of the no-cost-to-you refreshments to fill up even more.
Use this pricing and portion guide on the Campus Dining website to look up all of the places to eat on campus, and how much it all costs. Spend 30 minutes on a Sunday night planning out your food for the week. Your Wolfie Wallet will thank you!